The Chicago Cubs might have narrowly beaten the Cleveland Indians to clinch the World Series last night, but it will not take Ohioans long to become distracted from the pain.
For as long as the Cubs have dwindled towards the bottom of the Major League Baseball ladder, Ohio has been what is known in as a “bellwether state” – home to voters that know which way the wind is blowing when it comes to presidential politics.
Like the Australian seat of Eden-Monaro in southwest NSW, Ohio has an uncanny knack of accurately predicting who the next US president will be. Indeed, in 25 of the 27 elections that have been held since 1904, the candidate that won Ohio also won the presidency.
Given there are only a few swing states in the country– with the vast majority being either safely blue or red – and that there is plenty of superstition surrounding Ohio ballots, both campaigns have been frequent visitors to the ‘buckeye state’ of late.
Earlier this week, I joined a couple hundred Clevelanders and fifty or so roving reporters to welcome the former Secretary of State to town. No stranger to the stump, Mrs Clinton gave a polished speech that took more than a few cues from Bernie Sanders’ campaign, focusing on her student loan debt reduction plan and the shortcomings of her opponent.
But while her supporters probably left buoyed – even inspired – by the up close and personal event, there is no doubt their enthusiasm paled in comparison with that of a different political crowd gathering across town.
About a mile out from the iX Center – Cleveland’s largest convention centre – the Republican nominee’s unmistakable head became visible, glaring down from a giant neon billboard alongside the five letters of his global brand: TRUMP.
Having been knocked back for a media pass (itself a telling difference between the two campaigns), I donned a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap and cautiously joined the 5,000-strong throng, paranoid I would be exposed as a pernicious, foreign journalist at any moment and ripped limb from limb.
I stood silently towards the back, fighting the urge to take notes and hoping no one would be offended by my lack of raucous cheering. The crowd whipped itself into a frenzy as the billionaire’s thick Queens accent began to boom from the stage, vigorously waving signs with slogans like “Women for Trump”, “Hillary for Prison” and “Deplorable Lives Matter” – a response to Clinton’s derogatory characterisation of Trump fans.
Partly the disparity in size and style between the two events has to do with the mundane fact that Trump’s event was primetime, Hillary’s in the afternoon.
Trump’s obvious showmanship is also a factor. I wasn’t the only one refraining from hooting and hollering, with a few other attendees likely more interested in glimpsing the candidate than voting for him (assuming they weren’t similarly cast asunder members of the press).
However, it can’t be denied it may also be a sign that Ohio is leaning Trump. In fact, Real Clear Politics has him leading Clinton by 2.7 points in the crucial state, according to the average of a number of polls taken in the past week, as do most others. Even the Huffington Post‘s poll has Trump up by half a percentage point – a publication likely to be read by very few Trump fans.
Once the global headquarters of the rubber tyre industry, in more recent times headlines about Ohio have told a sad story of economic stagnation and the decline of manufacturing (alongside occasional and very welcome sporting success).
Some have suggested this post-industrial malaise, and the joblessness it entails, is at least partly responsible for the Trump phenomenon, meaning it is no surprise he has a few natural supporters here.
Trump’s pledge to “renegotiate” the trade deals he says are responsible for factory jobs relocating overseas, as well as his more general mantra to revert national life to a previous era, resonate especially with these recently down and out folks.
His lead in Ohio heading into the final days of the campaign is all the more remarkable considering the state’s popular Republican governor John Kasich thinks so little of his own party’s nominee that he essentially donkey-voted, writing in the name of 2008 nominee John McCain instead of ticking the Trump-Pence box.
If the polls stay steady and Ohio stays true to its bellwether reputation, then there is a good chance Trump will be the next president.
But as the Chicago Cubs and their fans will be very happy to remind you, history does not always repeat itself.
Image source: Wikipedia Commons.
Published on 3 November 2016